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March 18, 2008

True Stories of Crying at Work

maria reitan

Maria Reitan

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Maria Reitan, 42, former executive TV producer, now public-relations principal, Minneapolis

The moment: I had moved from Miami to Chicago to work as an executive TV producer. Chicago was a conservative, insular market, and the station had a lot of people accustomed to doing things a certain way. I was trying to make changes, and I got a lot of resistance. One day, I'd had it. I called the producers together and said, "What's going on here? Why are you giving me such a hard time?" I started getting emotional and just boohooed.

The aftermath: I hoped to get a sign that my colleagues wanted to work with me, but they sat there with blank expressions. I immediately regretted it. I went directly into my boss's office and told him what I had done. In a newsroom, gossip flies fast, and I wanted him to hear it from me. He had come from another market and was getting the same backlash, and he confided that sometimes he wanted to cry. He told me to compose myself and go right back out to the newsroom. He left six months later for another job, but he remained a mentor for years.

The takeaway: I'm glad I found an adviser, but I handled the situation poorly. If I were facing a hostile group today, I would step out of the room, get my bearings, go back, and conclude the meeting. You need to know your audience before you reveal that type of emotion.

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